FAITH AND FREEDOM


BY
GARY RAY BRANSCOME
 

 

    God caused the Bible to be written as a divine witness to Jesus Christ and the forgiveness secured for us by His death on the cross (John 5:39 and 20:31). Furthermore, because He wanted its words to be understood and believed, He caused it to be written in the language of shepherds, tent makers, and fishermen not the language of mystics and philosophers (2 Corinthians 3:12). Moreover, in keeping with clarity, its central message is history not philosophy, and that history includes seven events that have a deep spiritual significance for every one of us. Those events are:


1. The creation of the world in six days
2. The fall of man into sin
3. The virgin Birth of Christ
4. The death of Christ on the Cross
5. The resurrection of Christ from the Dead
6. The ascension of Christ into heaven
7. The return of Christ, to judge the living and the dead.
 
    Six of those events are past, and one is yet in the future. Yet they not only are basic to the work of the Holy Ghost, but also relate to freedom (John 16:8).

CREATION

    Those who deny that God has created us, and will hold us accountable for what we do, wind up concluding that there are no moral absolutes. However, the idea that there are no moral absolutes makes it easy to justify tyranny. In fact, by denying accountability to God evolution provided a philosophical rational for both communism and Nazism. In contrast, our own "Declaration of Independence" testified of the importance of creation to freedom when it said, "All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights."
    Therefore, as Christians we have every right to object when we are forced by taxation, to support an educational establishment that attacks the truth of creation. In fact, the First Amendment clearly precludes any action on the part of government that would deny us the free expression of our beliefs, whether in the halls of congress, or in the classroom. At the same time, those on the government payroll have no business using the public school classrooms as a pulpit for preaching atheism.


THE FALL

    Those who believe that all men are basically good tend to blindly trust their rulers, and blind trust leads to tyranny. In contrast, Those who recognize the fact that we have a fallen nature, and a heart that is "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked," see the importance of preventing the abuse of power (Jeremiah 17:9, John 8:32). To that end, the Bible gives us many examples of such abuse. In fact, only two of the kings, whose reign is recorded, were not guilty of criminal acts. Therefore, it should be clear to all who love God's Word, that freedom can only exist when those in authority are subject to the same laws as everyone else, and when a division of power makes it possible to punish rulers who violate those laws.


THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF CHRIST

    Those who associate luxury and pomp with deity will identify God with the high and mighty of this world. Furthermore, if they think of God as a harsh judge they will assume that harshness is God's way of dealing with people, and will find it easy to rationalize tyranny. However, those who know the love of God, and see that love expressed by His willingness to be born in a stable and share the life of the common people, are not likely to abuse power or to turn a deaf ear to the cries of the poor. Thus, through the virgin birth we come to see God in a way that is inconsistent with tyranny.


CHRIST'S DEATH ON THE CROSS

    Those who think of service as something that would be beneath the dignity of God will assume that rulers should not serve the people, or sacrifice their own comfort, but should be served. However, that way of thinking is inconsistent with the fact that God revealed Himself, in the person of Christ, as one who was not only willing to serve, but as one who was willing to die in our place. The love of God that was revealed to us in Christ is incompatible with the abuse of power.
    God revealed the depth of His love for us when, in the person of Christ, He took our sins upon Himself and died in our place so that we might have forgiveness and eternal life. In keeping with that love, rulers should think of themselves as public servants, rather than gods. Furthermore, they should not pervert the concept of service, either to make themselves rich or to appear as benefactors at someone else's expense – by giving to some what they have taken from others (Luke 22:25,26). Instead they should serve the people by protecting the innocent, seeing that criminals receive swift and sure punishment, and praising that which is good and right (Romans 13:3, 1 Peter 2:14, Ecclesiastes 8:11, 1 Timothy 1:9, 1 Timothy 2:2).


CHRIST'S RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD

    Christ's resurrection from the dead is a Divine testimony to the fact that He was the Son of God, and that God accepted His sacrifice on our behalf. For that reason, the resurrection (which is one of the best-established facts of history) affirms everything that I have said about Christ's virgin birth, life, and death on the cross. The love of God that has been revealed through Christ's birth, life, death, and resurrection is inconsistent with the negation of love inherent in tyranny.


CHRIST'S ASCENSION INTO HEAVEN

    Rulers who are confident that they will never have to account to anyone for what they do, exercise little self-restraint in their abuse of power. However, like His resurrection, Christ's Ascension testifies to the fact that He is who He claimed to be, and that He will return to judge the living and the dead. That means that rulers will someday have to account for what they do. And, any ruler who believes that he will have to give account will be less likely to abuse the power entrusted to him. For that reason, the fact that Christ has ascended unto heaven, and will return to judge the living and the dead, is inconsistent with tyranny.


CHRIST'S SECOND COMING

    Because Christ will return to judge the living and the dead, every knee will bow to Him and give account (Philippians 2:10). That being the case, every ruler should acknowledge Christ as Lord, and every law made by man should be in accord with His Ten Commandments (Romans 13:1). At the same time, the fact that keeping those commandments will not make someone righteous in the sight of God should tell us that the job of government is to punish crime, not make people righteous (1 Timothy 1:9).
    Contrary to popular opinion, the Ten Commandments were given to Moses as the head of state, and were the basis of the political law of Israel, not the religious law. For that reason, rulers should be free to learn from the political law of Israel. At the same time, evil laws should be repealed while laws in general should be kept to a minimum (1 Timothy 1:9). As far as morality is concerned, every system of law will reflect some standard of morality. Laws that allow babies to be butchered reflect one standard while laws that condemn and punish such barbarism reflect another standard. Therefore, it is impossible for a government to be morally, or religiously, neutral. Rulers must chose, and those who seriously consider the fact that that they will someday have to account to Christ for what they have done are not likely to chose tyranny.


OUR GOD GIVEN RIGHTS

    Through the Ten Commandments God has given us certain inalienable rights that no ruler is authorized to deny. Because those rights are rooted in God's standard of right and wrong, official recognition of the Ten Commandments is important to the preservation of freedom. In fact, each Commandment gives us a specific right. For example: The commandment, "Thou shalt not kill" gives us the right to life. Moreover, because government exists to protect that right, no ruler is free to commit murder. Therefore, while God has authorized capital punishment and allows for national defense in time of war, a ruler who uses his means to commit murder (as David did with Uriah) should be punished for the crime of murder. However, it will only be possible to hold rulers accountable for their crimes if those in authority are subject to the same laws as everyone else, and a division of power makes it possible to punish rulers who violate those laws.

    The First Commandment gives us the right to worship and serve the one true God to the exclusion of any other. Since one aspect of worship involves doing the will of God, that commandment gives us the right to serve God by freely proclaiming His Word, even if that Word condemns the sins of rulers (freedom of speech). It also gives us the right to publish that word, and the right to gather peacefully to hear that Word (freedom of press and assembly). Furthermore it gives to us the right to work through moral and lawful means to correct abuses on the part of government (the right to petition government for redress of grievances). Furthermore, it gives us the right to teach our children to do likewise.

    By forbidding us to take His name in vain, God has given us the right to treat His name respectfully. Consequently, no ruler has the authority to make us swear falsely in God's name, lie in God's name, or otherwise misuse God's name.

    By requiring us to keep the Sabbath day holy, God has given us the right to set every seventh day apart for worship, and no government has any God-given authority to forbid such worship.

    By commanding children to honor their father and mother, God has given every child the right to be instructed by his parents, to respect his parents, and to follow the faith of his parents. Therefore, no government has any God-given authority to indoctrinate our children contrary to our wishes, to turn them against us, or to make them testify against us.

    By condemning adultery, God has given us the right to lead a chaste and moral life, marry, be faithful to our spouse, and have a spouse who is faithful to us. Moreover, no ruler has any God-given authority to violate that right, or to make laws that encourage the violation of that right.

    By condemning theft, God has given us the right to property. While those rulers who serve us well deserve their salary, and will incur expenses which must be met, they have no God-given authority to confiscate our property, either for their own enrichment or to appear as benefactors at our expense (Luke 22:25,26).

    By condemning false witness, God has given us the right to tell the truth, and to speak well of our neighbor. For that reason, no ruler has any God-given authority to bear false witness, or to make us bear false witness against our neighbor.

    By condemning covetousness, God has given us the right to help our neighbor, care for our neighbor, and seek his good. Therefore, no ruler has any God-given authority to encourage envy, or nurture animosity between different groups of people.

    Any ruler who would command us to violate one of God's Commandments ceases to be a representative of God, and becomes instead a representative of Satan who is trying to turn us against our true King, Jesus Christ.


CONCLUSION


    The point of this essay is that faith leads to freedom, while sin and unbelief lead to bondage. However, when it comes to defining freedom, the Bible makes a distinction between liberty and license that many in our society fail to understand (Galatians 5:13). In short, liberty is freedom to do right, the freedom to live "a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty," while license is the abuse of freedom that will ultimately lead to hell (1 Timothy 2:2). For that reason, the proper role of government is to punish those who criminally abuse freedom, without denying freedom to those who do not abuse it (1 Timothy 1:9, 1 Peter 2:14).